The Bangles: The return of a (far prettier) hair band.
I imagine most folks visualize those crazy Middle Eastern dance moves of “Walk Like An Egyptian” when they think back on The Bangles. And while that’s their primary hit song calling card, for better or for worse, this DVD is a reminder that there was so much more to the band than just a silly walk. Recorded in September of 2000 at the House Of Blues in Hollywood, CA, it finds the quartet still looking and sounding good. This was one hair band with pretty faces and bodies to go along with those fetching follicles.
The hit-making Bangles were Susanna Hoffs (vocals / guitar); Debbie Peterson (vocals / drums): Debbie’s sister, Vicki Peterson (vocals / lead guitar); and Michael Steele (vocals/bass). Steele has since moved on from the band, but the remaining original three from this quartet continue to record and play together as The Bangles. This show nevertheless featured Steele before she left for solo sailing.
Many think of The Bangles as a happy-go-lucky act; one that gave us the Prince-written “Manic Monday” in addition to “Walk Like An Egyptian”. But this live helping of Bangles music also shows off the act’s more serious side, too. For instance, Jules Shear’s touching “If She Knew What She Wants” is even better when filled out by the girlish harmonies. The group also loved its power-pop, which is why its cover of Alex (Big Star) Chilton’s “September Gurls” fits its repertoire so well. And while it can be hard to listen to many of the other overblown power ballads of the ‘80s and ‘90s, The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” stands up particularly well even now.
In addition to the act’s good feel for power-pop and ballads, let’s not forget that The Bangles began as a kind of ‘60s revival group. These women played the clubs along with other great psychedelic-inspired acts, like The Rain Parade, The Dream Syndicate and The Three O’clock. The Bangles’ ‘60s leanings are expressed during this show with a cover of Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter”, which is actually better than the original. You may also recall that this track first appeared on the Less Than Zero soundtrack. Another ‘60s nugget is “Pushin’ Too Hard”, an old Seeds song. The latter is quite aggressive. It should be noted once and for all that The Bangles always rocked a whole lot harder than The Go-Gos.
For those who plan to re-live The Bangles’ heyday with this DVD, you’ll want to give attention to the disc’s audio commentary. Hoffs and the Peterson sisters do a great job of setting the scenes for each song. When they get to “Manic Monday” in the set, they tell the story of how Prince surprised the band by joining them onstage at The Palace in Hollywood. This surprise guest appearance took place while the group was performing “Hero Takes A Fall”, which itself was inspired by reading a Norton’s literature book in search of song ideas.
It’s also fun to hear how the band was asked to create a song for an Austin Powers movie, which resulted in “Get The Girl”. During the commentary for this one, the band admits how the track’s bass groove was liberally borrowed from The Beatles’ “Taxman” and The Turtles’ “Outside Chance”. And when they mentioned that there’s a great YouTube video for “Outside Chance”, I just had to pause the DVD and look it up. And while the bass line is close, I wouldn’t exactly call it highway robbery.
In addition to the audio commentary, there is bonus interview segment and acoustic performances of “Manic Monday” and “Ride The Ride”, both filmed backstage at the House Of Blues.
I was a fan of The Bangles, even before I watched this DVD. In fact, I saw them once in a small Orange County club, as well as on a bill with The Psychedelic Furs. But the information I gained from watching just this DVD gave me an even deeper appreciation for what they’ve accomplished.
I hope this reunion wasn’t just a chance to pick up a paycheck because I truly believe The Bangles still have a lot of great music left in them. They may have walked like Egyptians all the way to the bank once, but they can also walk proudly with their heads held high. Their respectable legacy is secure.